Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage
John Patitucci: Line By Line
These two recent recordings are the finest work to date from both of these giants of contemporary jazz. Pilgrimage is, unfortunately, Michael Brecker's final piece of work, as the jazz world lost him to cancer at far too young an age just a few months ago. Brecker's writing on this CD is straight ahead, intensely focused jazz. The rhythmic language of his earlier work is evident and is even more developed here than ever before. He has surrounded himself by some of the heaviest improvisers on the planet: Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette. They all sound pretty fired up by the opportunity to perform with Brecker here; his cancer was in remission when the sessions took place and the musicians sound like they are seizing the chance to make this music with this man while they can. To my ears, Brecker is on fire and DeJohnette is tracking him every step of the way. Hancock is also outstanding (when isn't he?) in this setting.
Patitucci's most recent CD, Line By Line, represents a huge step forward for him as a composer. As with Pilgrimage, the tunes sound very focused stylistically and the bassist puts himself in some very interesting conditions for improvising (like his piece for strings and electric bass). His playing is as ferociously personal as always, as is the work of guitarist Adam Rogers and drummer Brian Blade.
I haven't heard two CDs I can recommend more than these two so far this year.